BCS National Championship 2012: The 10 Best Players in Monday Night's Game
National Football League scouts will have a pick of the litter unlike any other college football game this season.
Monday night's BCS National Championship Game between No. 1 LSU (Tigers) and No. 2 Alabama (Crimson Tide) will have scouts salivating over the talent on display by both teams.
The two Southeastern Conference division rivals boasts the nation's two top defenses: Alabama (No. 1) and LSU (No. 2).
Players from both teams will definitely have a say in Monday's game.
The contingent from LSU had the first say when the two teams met in Tuscaloosa (Ala.) on Nov. 5. Both teams had their present ranking in the polls, but the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide in a thrilling 9-6 overtime win.
Both teams played excellent defense on that day, and you can expect about the same in the championship game.
With the NFL draft upcoming on April 26, players will have their last chance to audition in front of the pro scouts.
Here are the 10 best players that will be on the field, who will have the biggest impact.
10. LSU Wide Receiver Ruben Randle
LSU's leading receiver Ruben Randle was held in check the last time the two met.
Randle, who led LSU with 50 catches for 904 yards and eight touchdown receptions, had only two catches for 19 yards.
The 6'4" junior can stretch the field and gives quarterback Jordan Jefferson a viable receiving threat.
Randle burned the No. 6 Arkansas for 134 yards on nine receptions late in the season. The 100-plus-yard receiving game was one of four on the season for Randle.
LSU's chance of winning the championship will depend on the play of Randle.
9. Alabama Safety Mark Barron
Alabama safety Mark Barron had only two picks this season, but one of them was against LSU back on Nov. 9.
The senior defensive back is one of the Crimson Tide's top defenders.
Although he plays strong safety, Barron will probably move to the free safety at the next level.
Strong play from Barron is a plus for Alabama in the championship game.
8. Alabama Cornerback Dre Kirpatrick
Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick will not take Monday night's championship game face down.
The Crimson Tide's talented junior defensive back will be locked on to LSU's Ruben Randle.
Kirkpatrick held Randle to only two catches in their previous meeting, and will need to do the same for Alabama to have a chance at winning.
Even though Kirkpatrick didn't record an interception this season, it was no indication of his not being present.
His presence was the reason the Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 in several defensive categories: total defense, pass defense, rushing defense, scoring defense, red-zone defense and pass efficiency.
7. Alabama Linebacker Dont'a Hightower
Alabama's Dont'a Hightower is a tackling machine.
The 260-pound junior is tough against the run.
Alabama led the nation in run defense (74 yards a game), and allowed only three rushing touchdowns.
Hightower follows a long list of former great Crimson Tide linebackers.
6. LSU Quarterback Jordan Jefferson
LSU Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson has played well since taking over the starting quarterback job.
After being suspended for the Tigers' first four games, Jefferson replaced Jarrett Lee in the second half of the first game between the two teams. Since then the Tigers offense has been unstoppable.
Jefferson has all the physical attributes: size (6'5", 223 pounds), arm strength, leadership and intelligence (only one interception).
Although Jefferson doesn't generate a lot of passing statistics, his main asset is his ability to move in the pocket. Jefferson was LSU's fifth-best rusher (248 yards), and scored three touchdowns on the ground.
LSU's title hopes hinge on Jefferson having a good game.
5. Alabama Linebacker Courtney Upshaw
Alabama Courtney Upshaw will be a future NFL Pro Bowler.
The 6'2", 265-pound linebacker is the Crimson Tide's most disruptive linebacker.
Upshaw is a defensive menace and will definitely be in the mind of LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
While fellow teammate Dont'a Hightower gets all the ink, Upshaw is the one that has the most impact.
His eight-and-a-half sacks, along with one interception, contribute to Alabama having the nation's top-ranked defense.
The senior had six tackles and a sack in the first meeting between the two teams, in which LSU won 9-6 in overtime.
Upshaw is ranked real high on several mock draft boards.
4. LSU Defensive End Sam Montgomery
It's a shame that LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery will not be in this year's NFL draft; the only reason: he's staying in Baton Rouge (La.) one more season.
A redshirt sophomore, Montgomery stated recently that he was coming back to LSU for another year.
If Montgomery would have entered the draft, he would have been a top-15 pick.
The 6'2", 245-pounder is the Tigers' best pass-rusher and his numbers back it up. His nine sacks led all LSU defensive linemen.
Alabama had trouble containing Montgomery the first time around. He pressured Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron all game, and had two sacks in the win.
Montgomery has a bright NFL future ahead of him.
3. LSU Cornerback Morris Claiborne
Perhaps the most talented player in Monday night's BCS National Championship Game is LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Claiborne, a junior, is tied for fourth in the NCAA with six interceptions.
The 6'1" junior DB is without question a top-five pick if he decides to turn professional, although he has yet to make a decision.
Claiborne is a threat to score anytime he touches the football. He has returned both an interception and a kickoff for touchdowns.
In a game with supreme talent, Claiborne is the player who is a game-changer and tonight's championship will come down to how Claiborne plays.
This shutdown corner will be the deciding factor.
2. Alabama Running Back Trent Richardson
Alabama's title hopes ride on workhorse running back Trent Richardson.
Richardson was held in check by LSU's defense the last time around. The Tigers held the nation's fourth-leading rusher to only 89 yards on 23 carries.
The 225-pound battering ram found little room to roam against LSU, so look for the Crimson Tide to get Richardson involved early in the game.
A Heisman Trophy finalist, Richardson finished third in the voting behind eventual winner Robert Griffin III (Baylor) and Andrew Luck (Stanford).
A true junior, Richardson has yet to make a formal announcement about foregoing his final season at Alabama. Tonight's game may be the last for Richardson.
Richardson will once again find it tough running against an LSU defense that enters tonight's contest third against the run (85 yards allowed a game).
However, if Richardson rushes for over 120 yards, Alabama will win the game.
1. LSU Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu
College football's biggest game will boil down to one of the sport's smallest players.
The player known around college football as "Honey Badger," Tyrann Mathieu will be the best player in tonight's BCS National Championship Game.
No player in this game is more feared than the 5'9" diminutive cornerback. Mathieu brings a certain element to the game that can't be taught.
Mathieu is a threat to score, whether it's picking off a pass or returning a punt for a score.
Honey Badger currently ranks third in the nation in punt returns (16.1 average), and has returned two for touchdowns.
Against the pass, teams avoid throwing to Mathieu's side, but teammate Morris Claiborne is on the other side.
The NFL will have to wait on Mathieu, because he is only a sophomore.
If LSU wins tonight's game, Mathieu will be the reason why.